7 Uses for Vegetable and Fruit Peel Leftovers

By Angela Tague in Healthy Feeling

After I whip up a breakfast smoothie or salad for lunch, there are typically lots of leftover food scraps: apple cores, lemon peels, kale stems. The bulk of it, however, never goes in the trash. Trimmings and cores are placed outside for the squirrels and birds to eat while the vegetable and fruit peel leftovers get used in DIY projects around my house.

Recycling food has been second nature to me for years. When I transitioned to using natural cleaning and beauty products in my home, I got a little creative. Here are seven of my favorite ways to give produce leftovers another purpose:

Soak in Fragrant Citrus Oils

Save your fresh orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and clementine peels to toss into a hot bath. The water draws the naturally occurring essential oils out of the fruit peels, creating a spa-like aromatic retreat that makes you feel invigorated and refreshed. Tip: tuck peels for one to two days in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until you have enough to truly enhance your bath.

Cook up Apple Facial Toner

You already know that fresh produce is full of vitamins that nourish your body on the inside. Well, of course they can do the same when applied outside your body as well.

I stumbled across a simple recipe for apple pectin toner that can be adjusted a bit to make old apple cores and peels have a second purpose. (You really can never have enough natural products to freshen your skin!)

natural cleanser

Make Natural Spray Cleaner

If you’re looking for a way to cut back on commercially prepared household cleansers, try creating your own from vinegar, water, and fruit peels. It’s easy to put together in just a few minutes—and with your favorite produce leftovers, you get a fresh, clean scent.

Craft Bird-Feeding Cups

A few years ago, when oranges were in season and plentiful, I cut several in half, scooped out the juicy fruit for me, then filled the remaining cups with birdseed. I tucked the oranges in a bush just outside the front door of my home and watched the neighborhood cardinals and robins enjoy a plentiful lunch. Try this craft with your kids to teach them about recycling foods scraps and appreciating wildlife.

Create Homemade Potpourri

I used to buy bagged mixes of scented wood chips, pine cones, dried fruit peels, and spices from the craft stores, but now I simply make my own potpourri! Choose a favorite decorative bowl and fill it with cinnamon sticks, pinecones from your yard, and dried fruit peels from a few apples, oranges, or lemons. Just remember to use a food dehydrator or a low oven temperature to dry out the food scraps before assembling your potpourri.

juicing produce

Prep a Veggie Face Mask

I tend to fire up my juicer once or twice a week. Sometimes I save the produce pulp to make vegetarian soup stock, but other times, the combo of fruits and veggies isn’t so appealing for a future warm meal. I recently learned that in these cases, you can use nutrient dense raw fruit peel and vegetable waste to perk up your skin.

Convert the antioxidant-rich pulp into a body scrub by mixing in coarse raw sugar granules, olive oil, and honey—or you can use chilled food scraps as-is directly on your skin. All you have to do is apply your mixture, soak for 10 minutes, and then rinse away. To avoid clogging the shower drain, save this idea for a summer day when an outdoor rinse with the garden hose will feel refreshing.

Freshen the Garbage Disposal

Finally, if you have some fruit peels, but they have bad spots and aren’t much good for recycling, toss them in the garbage disposal. I like to put lemon wedges from my daily water bottle in the disposer at least once a month to freshen my sink.

Don’t just toss those veggie and fruit scraps from dinner tonight—put them to good use, and tell us about it on Twitter at @TomsofMaine!

Image source: Angela Tague

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

You're dedicated to cooking healthy meals and weekend food prepping when you can. Now take your green mindset a step further—and give your vegetable and fruit waste a new purpose around your home. You'll keep usable produce out of the trash can while having an excuse to explore some DIY projects with the kiddos.